[Ads-l] Early forms of "Never wrestle with a pig" (Was: Re: Aeschylus, G.B. Shaw at it again)

Bonnie Taylor-Blake taylor-blake at NC.RR.COM
Wed Jan 6 12:19:29 UTC 2016

Now that we're only a few weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and the
New Hampshire primary, I'm reminded of the wonderful "Never wrestle
with a pig -- you could get dirty and the pig likes it," which has
come up at least a couple of times here.  As Garson mentioned (see far
below), Barry Popik has already researched this, tracing “Never wallow
in the mud with a pig, because the pig likes it" to 1946.

A few less interesting variants from the end of the 19th century follow.

-- Bonnie


DEAR SIR -- It has been remarked by a wise man that he who wrestles
with a hog must expect to be spattered with filth, whether he is
vanquished or not.  This maxim I have long known and appreciated;
nevertheless, there are occasions when it must be disregarded.

[In "Communication," J. Frank Condon's letter to the editor (dated 29
January 1872), The Cambria (Pennsylvania) Freeman, 3 February 1872, p.
3. Via Chronicling America.]


Mr. Thayer of Worcester renewed his argument against the sale.  He was
particularly earnest against the bill, and opposed especially Mr.
Brown of Boston, his parting shot being that he had heard that one
should not wrestle with a pig, for he would be smeared, but he
(Thayer) was not frightened from his course, and would inform the
gentleman from Boston that he (Thayer) was not to be driven from the
pen. [Laughter and applause.]

[From "The Legislature," The Boston Daily Advertiser, 3 March 1882, p.
2.  Via Gail NewsVault.]


"Oh, yes, I know I published a card concerning some of his past
unsavory record, and intended at that time to lay a portion of his
life before the public, but some of the best citizens in the town and
county have consulted with me and I find that he is a mere nobody, and
that neither himself nor his paper has any influence.  You know, if
you wrestle with a hog you will become dirty, no matter whether you or
the hog should gain the fall."

[From "The Temperance Lecturer Defines His Position," The Warren
(Pennsylvania) Mail, 14 October 1884, p. 3.  Via


I considered that we owed him a cent, but I realized that to quarrel
with him would be like wrestling with a hog.  The association would be
smeared whether it would throw the colonel or whether the colonel
would throw it.

[From "Hits the Colonel; John Hoenschiedt Comes Back at Colonel
Ellsworth," The Wichita Daily Eagle, 26 August 1896, p. 5.  Via
Chronicling America.]


On Tue, Apr 12, 2011 at 11:37 PM, Garson O'Toole
<adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> The same work improbably attributes the following to George Bernard Shaw (as
>> do thousands of websites): "I learned long ago, never wrestle with a pig;
>> you get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it."
> Barry Popik's website has an excellent post from 2007 on this topic:
> Never wrestle with a pig -- you get dirty and the pig likes it.
> http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/never_wrestle_with_a_pig_you_get_dirty_and_the_pig_likes_it/
> Short version: http://goo.gl/Wuaa9
> The most amusing precursor that I found for this expression concerns
> another wrestling partner to avoid:
> Cite: 1902 February 8, The Living Age, Biography, Page 330, Column 1,
> Number 3005, [Littell, Son and Co.], Living Age Company, Boston.
> (Google Books full view)
> Or take the notable answer of Bolingbroke when it was suggested to him
> that he should make some rejoinder to the virulent assaults of Bishop
> Warburton: "I never wrestle with a chimney sweeper."
> http://books.google.com/books?id=qgQwAAAAYAAJ&q=wrestle#v=snippet&
> Garson

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